- Rupprecht Matthies, German, 1959-
- Born: Hamburg, Germany
- Work Locations: Hamburg, Germany
About the Artist
Rupprecht Matthies was born in 1959 in Hamburg, Germany, where he lives and works today. His university studies in sociology continue to inform his installations and works of public art, which are often created in collaboration with various community groups and individuals. Matthies often turns language, text, and words gathered from his creative exchanges with his collaborators into sculptures, paintings, and installations. In turn, the words that fuel the creation of his art also spark conversations and exchanges among viewers of his artwork.
What Inspired It
Matthies often looks to community groups for inspiration, often involving many other individuals in the creation and execution of his work. Matthies encourages participants to lend their own creativity to his process, and feels that the more individuals contribute, the richer his final product will be.
To make ¿Being Home?, Rupprecht Matthies held workshops with newly arrived refugees from around the world, asking them to share the stories of their experiences resettling in Denver.
He asked them:
- What surprised you about the United States?
- What did you leave behind?
- What English word stays in your thoughts?
- Is there a word in your own language that you miss?
In response to these questions, Matthies’ collaborators shared personal histories, stories, and anecdotes of a range of human experiences. Through conversation and discussions, Matthies and his collaborators distilled these rich stories into single words. A farmer from Bhutan who is having a difficult time finding work in Denver chose the word “cardamom,” the crop he used to grow in Bhutan. A child from Tanzania who had come to love American food chose the word “hamburger.” A young man from Iraq who missed swimming in the river near his former home submitted the word “river” in Arabic. Hundreds of words were submitted, each telling part of a larger story of loss, hope, past and future.
From these discussions, Matthies gathered words in many languages: Karenni, Nepali, Swahili, Amharic and many others. In turn, he carved these words in wood, Plexiglas, and foam. Finally, he incorporated each word sculpture into his installation, which he began to see as a ‘landscape of words.’ Words carved in styrofoam float near the ceiling of his installation as word clouds; smaller words carved in Plexiglas and hung as mobiles created a sky of words; tall words carved in wood and installed in a cluster became a grove of word trees.
Often two words hung near one another will suddenly combine to evoke a new concept. As one walks around the installation, new meanings emerge.
Matthies used wood, Plexiglas, Styrofoam, and soft foam covered in fabric to create all of the words in the installation. Matthies invited many volunteers to cover the soft-foam words in fabric. He felt that the more creative minds were involved in the process, the richer the final product would be.
Visitors to the space can cut their own word out of construction paper and add it to Matthies’ installation.
Matthies asked refugees new to Denver who were from all over the world to contribute words. You’ll find words in Arabic, Karenni, Nepali, English, French, and Spanish, among others.
Matthies purposefully chose multiple bright colors for his installation which gives the space a warm, inviting feel.
A glossary of words was created so that visitors can find the English translation of any particular word in the installation. “Translation” labels were added to the soft pillows as well.